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Special Report

'Special Report' Panel Gives a Penn. Primary Preview and Discussing Carter's Mideast Trip

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from April 18, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know he spent all day yesterday complaining about the hard questions he was asked. But being asked tough questions in a debate is nothing like the pressures you face inside the White House. And, in fact, when the going gets tough, you just can't just walk away, because we're going to have some very tough decisions that we have to make.

I'm with Harry Truman on this. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT BAIER, GUEST HOST: That was Senator Hillary Clinton today talking about what she called Barack Obama's "whining" about the debate questions this week. The Obama campaign put out a statement immediately. From Bill Burton, here's what it says:

"Considering the fact that Senator Clinton sat on the stage at the last debate and complained to all of America that she always gets the first question, her blatant hypocrisy here is stunning. That she would rather spend her time talking about the same distractions and divisions that Washington is obsessed with is her business. Barack Obama believes the American people deserve a real debate."

So what about this debate four days before the Pennsylvania primary? Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer; FOX News contributors all.

First, Mort, let's show the Real Clear Politics average of all the polls in Pennsylvania, and that has the race at 48 percent for Hillary Clinton and 42.4 percent for Barack Obama. How is this shaping up, and this back and forth about this week's debate?

MORT KONDRAKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: Well, they're both right, of course. Barack Obama is whining, and Hillary Clinton whined when she was the target. Welcome to the NFL. You want to be president of the United States, you got to expect some grilling.

Pete Weiner(ph) who, used to work in the White House, had an item on a blog today that said just suppose that there was a conservative candidate for president who had as his minister a white supremacist, say an Aryan Nation guy, who was blasting away at blacks all the time, and who married him and was his friend, and that kind of stuff.

And suppose in his past he had a supporter who had bombed several abortion clinics, you know, and was unrepentant about it. Do you think there wouldn't be questions about that? And legitimate questions?

So Obama deserves to get the attention that he's getting. He wants to be President of the United States. He is a person that we don't know very well. So everything, every question that comes up has got to be explored, and it deserves being explored.

BAIER: Charles, is Senator Clinton picking up points with this line of calling Obama a "whiner," essentially? Both Clintons were out on the campaign trail saying basically that.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I'm not sure it's going to help her a lot. It may, you know the week that has passed, the weakness of his performance in that debate, the dripping condescension of the remarks he made about guns and religion, that's going to hurt him.

But it doesn't seem to help her. Her negatives are in place. She's got a ceiling, and people know her, and her way to win is to drive him down, and to prevail by a margin of her above him. But it doesn't help her. She knows that, but she has no alternative.

What I find remarkable is the way the press is circling the wagons and supporting Obama. And they're the ones who are complaining that all the stuff that Mort talked about is a distraction.

Here is a guy we hadn't heard about three years ago and who wants to be the President of the United States, who is on the threshold of being the Democratic nominee, and he has a 20 year association with a racist preacher, and he does say that working class whites are clinging to religion because of economic frustrations.

I've got news for Senator Obama. Religion pre-dates George Bush. Religion pre-dates the loss of jobs in Ohio and the Midwest. And religion pre-dates almost everything. And the idea that it's a result or a side effect of economic factors is stuff that only somebody of the academic left would believe, and that's who he is.

BAIER: Weigh in on this, but then, talk about the margin that Hillary Clinton has to win Pennsylvania by to really keep this race close.

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, you got it a little bit wrong. It's not to keep the race close—it's to keep her in the race.

One vote. That's all.

Look, chances are extremely remote that she will win the nomination. The question is whether she's going to stay in or drop out. If she wins in Pennsylvania at all, then she's been outspent, five to one in television ads, and so on, by Obama.

She's going to stay in. She does needs the slimmest possible excuse to stay in. It won't be a big triumph if she wins by one vote or five percent or something, but she will stay in.

You know I, this the problem for Obama was—and he may be right, this debate about some of these things as silly and trivial—but of course I love every moment of it. But when it got to the bigger issues in the second half of that debate, guns and taxes and a cap on Social Security, he was completely befuddled.

I have no idea after hearing him on guns what he — OK, he's in favor of an individual right to bear arms. After that, who knows? It was completely vague.

And look, I think he was surprised by Charlie Gibson, who was explaining to him how the capital gains tax actually works, and then his pledge to not raise taxes for anybody, who's was making under $200,000, that he might have contradicted that by saying he would raise the cap on taxes on Social Security. He was completely befuddled on that.

So, I think that Barack Obama people ought to worry about what they're asking for, because in a debate on serious issues, it didn't help him either.

KONDRAKE: I think that Fred is right, that if she wins by one vote, she stays in.

The question is when do superdelegates start flooding one way or another? If Obama wins clearly in Pennsylvania, they're going to flood to him. If she wins by just a little, I think they start flooding. I think it's going to be May 6, though, before they decide.

BAIER: That's it for this topic. When we return with our panel, does former President Jimmy Carter really think he can broker a Middle East peace deal? We'll examine his controversial meeting with Hamas leaders and the fallout from it, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: Despite warnings are from the White House, from Israel, and even from the Democratic campaign trail, former President Jimmy Carter today met with Hamas leaders in Damascus, Syria, including exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal.

What about these meetings, what comes of it, and what is the fallout from them? Let's turn back to the panel. Charles, we heard a lot about this meeting.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's given a lot of legitimacy to some of the worst people on the planet, the terrorist leadership of Hamas.

And the thing that was the worst, I think, that was disgraceful on the part of Carter, in Cairo today or yesterday, he said that Israel's closure of the border with Gaza is a criminal atrocity.

Here is Israel receiving rockets from Gaza every day, rockets aimed at innocent people. Gaza, a territory which Israel evacuated—there's not a soldier there, there's not a settler there, there is not a Jew in Gaza.

It is completely "liberated." It's a country that Israel left and he wanted to be in peace with. It left behind greenhouses which grow food and flowers to help the Gazan economy.

And the response? continual war, rockets, and many kidnappings. As a result, Israel has restricted but not cut off supplies of fuel and food. I would have cut them off entirely.

Is there a country in the world that would supply fuel and electricity to a government attacking it every day? There is not one, and for Carter to attack Israel on this is truly a calumny.

BAIER: Fred, is there political fallout for the Democratic Party?

BARNES: There could be, but, as you noticed, they all shifted. It was very telling that Barack Obama, who first said I have no comment about Jimmy Carter, I'm not going to criticize him, and then he wound up saying, boy, I sure wouldn't do that.

Then I think he realized there was a downside. That's what Hillary Clinton already said. She wouldn't meet with Hamas officials unless the Israelis were a part of it or said that was OK.

And, look, Jimmy Carter is a Democrat, and I wonder what will happen in Denver this summer in August. You know he'll be there. He is a superdelegate, so he will be at the convention. Is he going to give a speech? Are they going to let him come to the podium in prime time?

I think it is going to be a problem for Democrats. I think they would be better off exiling him from the convention. But they can't do it.

KONDRAKE: I think that the Obama campaign, frankly, is glad that he has not come out and endorsed him (Obama) the way he obviously feels about the campaign. He's not going to endorse Clinton. He prefers Obama by all reports.

I went back and read his former Middle East adviser's comments who quit as his Middle East adviser, Ken Stein, after Carter wrote his book alleging that the Israelis were engaging in apartheid in the West Bank.

And, basically, Stein thinks that Carter has a deep animus towards Israelis and towards the American-Jewish community because they sided with Teddy Kennedy in the 1980 primaries, and that that contributed to his defeat in the 1980 general election to Ronald Reagan, neglecting to notice that the misery index was astronomical, and we'd lost in Iran, and all that kind of other stuff going on, that he blames the Jews both in Israel and America, just tells you how anti-Israeli he really is.

BAIER: That's it for the panel.

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